Kochi franchise survives the axe, will play in IPL 2011

The BCCI on Sunday allowed the squabbling Kochi franchisee to participate in the fourth edition of the Indian Premier League, ending the suspense over the team and ensuring that at least eight sides will be part of IPL 4 next year.

The IPL Governing Council, which had given a third deadline to Kochi last week after the consortium’s investors reached a last-minute agreement over their shareholding pattern, on Sunday approved their ownership structure and took it in its fold.

“At their meeting today, the IPL Governing Council confirmed that the Kochi Franchisee had satisfactorily responded to the notice issued to them by the BCCI, and decided that the franchisee Kochi Cricket Pvt Ltd, would play in the IPL from 2011 onwards,” BCCI Secretary and President-Elect N Srinivasan said in a release.

BCCI vice-president Rajiv Shukla said the Board’s legal team was satisfied with the ownership structure of Kochi franchisee.

“Today, the Governing Council decided to approve Kochi as the eighth franchise of IPL and it will play in IPL 4. This decision was taken after examining the shareholding pattern Kochi submitted and the response (to the notices) they had g4en to the BCCI. It was legally examined. The GC found it appropriate,” Shukla told reporters in Delhi.

The Governing Council’s decision comes on the backdrop of the legal developments involving the BCCI and expelled IPL franchisees – Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals.

Relieved by BCCI’s decision, Satyajit Gaikwad, CEO of Rendezvous Sports World Pvt Ltd that represents the promoter group, said the the franchisee will now get down to business to build the side for the Twenty20 event.

“Differences (in the franchisee) are now things of the past. Earlier we were consortium partners. Now we are a family of IPL Kochi Private Limited,” Gaikwad said.

“We will have a Board meeting as soon as possible, may be tonight or tomorrow to decide the future course of action and team building. We are very sure that we will rise up to the expectations of cricket fraternity of Kerala and India,” he said.

Gaikwad said that Rendezvous held only sweat equity and it was not paid up (equity shares given without receiving payment for effort).

Mukesh Patel of Parinee Developers, one of the investors in the franchisee, expressed happiness over the BCCI’s decision and said that there were no problems in the franchisee now.

“There were some internal issues. There are differences of opinion in every company. But that has now been sorted out. Now we will work as a team,” said Patel who was here for the IPL Governing Council meeting.

Refusing to divulge the new share-holding pattern of the outfit, Patel said its managing committee will now take decisions related to its future operations.

Barely seven months after becoming the second most costliest team in the Indian Premier League, Kochi was on the verge of being thrown out of the event.

But the owners of the beleaguered franchise made a last ditch attempt to save the outfit by reaching a compromise.

Before the compromise, the investors of the franchise, which was bought for a staggering sum of Rs 1533.33 crore, had written to the BCCI informing them of their intention to withdraw from the IPL.

That letter was sent after the BCCI, which had on October 10 expelled Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals for allegedly violating contractual agreements, gave a termination notice of 30 days to the franchise to sort out internal disputes regarding the shareholding pattern.

The investors in the consortium – Anchor Earth, Parinee Developers, Rosy Blue and Film Wave – had earlier held 74 per cent of the equity.

The remaining 26 per cent was with the Gaikwad family – Shailendra, his brother Ravi and their parents, all part of Rendezvous Sports World – as free equity for services rendered while bidding.

It was this 26 per cent which became a bone of contention among the stakeholders as the investors were in no mood to give free equity to the Gaikwad family.

The Gaikwads, on their part, initially refused to part with the equity but later agreed to accept just 10 per cent sweat equity after the investor group threatened to pull out of the franchise.

“We (Rendezvous) have done everything to facilitate the team to survive,” Gaikwad said.

The BCCI has maintained that eight teams will take part in the fourth edition of the league scheduled from April 8, just six days after the World Cup.

However, this looks uncertain as Justice B N Srikrishna, the arbitrator appointed by the BCCI and Rajasthan Royals to resolve their case, stayed the termination of contract of the Royals after terming it illegal on November 30.

The Cricket Board has moved the Bombay High Court against the arbitrator’s stay.

In the case of Kings XI, Justice Srikrishna recused himself from the proceedings as the BCCI expressed reservations after he disclosed that he had once represented (as a lawyer) Bombay Dyeing, whose owner Ness Wadia has a stake in Kings XI.

The Bombay High Court has also extended the deadline for the IPL franchisees to sign up their respective “marquee” players till December 8.

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